Early childhood education is the key to a child’s development and transformation into a responsible citizen of any nation. With this vision, the Early Childhood Association (ECA) recently held a day-long conference — the Pune International Early Childhood Edufest (PIECE) 2017 in the city.
Among the many teachers, educationists, and academic counsellors attending the conference was Farzana Dohadwala, academic counsellor from South Asia for International Curriculum, and Leslie Falconer, CEO, Mother Goose Time (MGT) from the USA.
Dohadwala helps schools implement the international curriculum right at the beginning of a child’s education. “The early age is crucial,” said she adding, “We therefore have to train and retrain teachers who are working at the kindergarten and nursery school level.”
Play is an important aspect of this and it must be given utmost importance. The issue, according to her, is that parents, especially in India, are stuck up on academics and in the process ignore how important play is for children.
For a child, play has to be the first experience while learning anything so that it stays with him/her forever. “For this, the teacher has to be first skilled. She can’t bring her rote learning method to students. Experiential learning is a must,” she added.
Falconer, who is the director at the curriculum research team at MGT, USA, too agrees. “Even in this day and age, many schools and parents are trapped in mass education where the child’s individual needs and interests have no room for consideration,” she said. When play, music, art, nature and fun should be central to a child’s pre-school life, many are still crammed in small spaces and made to write ‘ABC’ and ‘1..2..3’ on ruled sheets much before they are mentally and physiologically ready, she added. Falconer thus readily agreed when she got an opportunity to collaborate with ECA and share her knowledge on the importance of new learning techniques for children.
“At MGT, we come up with these monthly kits for teachers with a tool bag for each day that has all the equipment and manuals for hands-on play-based teaching,” she said. It encourages design thinking in the classrooms. Education, she said, must be a process of storytelling rather than constant tests. Different kids have different learning styles and the teachers must recognise this while making a lesson plan.
Speaking of the education system in the USA, Falconer said that education is a subject dealt at the state level. There is no central system as such. The states review their respective curriculum.
“Yes, things have evolved a lot in the last three to four decades. It has gone from being subject based to project based. But we still need to take it from the presentation mode to the discovering mode,” she said.
In the USA too, educationists keep swinging between rote and liberal education techniques, she said. While some believe in the traditional, some want to look forward. “We need to achieve a golden mean,” Falconer added.
Dohadwala, on the other hand, said that the solution to the future lies in our past. “The guru-shishya tradition was the best. We need to look back and take lessons from it. Especially parents need to realise and accept conceptual learning.” However, the ray of hope, according to her, is that the new generation teachers are not only open to learning the new methodology of teaching but even keen on adopting it. The key, she believes, lies in parent-school communication, be it in India or around the world.
Falconer, who seconds Dohadwala, said, “With children growing up in a global environment, teachers too need to plan accordingly and be open to new ideas and techniques. We need to build a teacher design team which has members from across the world,” she concluded.